As a fan of barefoot shoes I jumped (not very high, because you don’t get a lot of air with bare feet) at the chance to try out Fila’s new Skele-Toes EZ Slide barefoot shoes AKA the crazy monkey shoes not made by Vibram.
These shoes are marketed as “casual” monkey shoes and are not designed for running. They are, luckily, fairly attractive in a “weird dude who wears barefoot shoes” kind of way but the first thing you’ll notice is that they have four toes instead of five. This is the EZ part of the name and they make them considerably easier to put on and take off. They also make you feel like Fred Flintstone.
They’re quite sturdy, with a thick rubber sole (relatively thick when compared to Vibrams) and two huge velcro straps along the heel and instep. The shoes fit more like sneakers than running shoes which is obviously why Fila is selling these to casual users. Sadly, most of this odd design is intentional. Vibram recently sued Fila for patent infringement and I suspect most of the 2.0 improvements are based on not trying to look like Five Fingers shoes.
I wore these around the neighborhood last weekend and did a bit of biking in them. While I don’t want to equate them with 21st century Crocs, I worry that this style may soon trickle out of the world of high-performance running (and the fat people like me who think barefoot running helps them a bit on their short runs) and into the world of backyard barbecues and 30-something Dads toddling through Disneyland, much as I imagine myself doing in the next few years.
I found the Skele-Toes to be quite comfortable if slightly less abrasively ugly than Vibrams. Fila made these into sports shoes rather than performance foot gloves and while I wouldn’t go marathoning in them they’re fine for treadmills and biking. At $60 they’re also a bit less expensive than Five Fingers ($80 for the Sprints, for example and few online sales to be found). I’m generally inclined to recommend these to folks who may want to dip a toe (chortle) into barefoot running but, to be clear, these aren’t “performance” shoes. However, for six bills (and these are Filas so they’ll probably go on sale sooner than later), you’ve got some conversation starters, to be sure.